India: Polio free for a year

India marked its first year without any new cases of polio on Thursday, Reuters reported.

This puts the country on track to ending it's status as a country where the virus is endemic and is a huge milestone for the country, the BBC reported.

According to the Associated Press, India had 741 cases of polio in 2009 and that number plunged to 42 in 2010. In 2011 there was one case, the last reported in the country. 

According to the BBC, India was seen as an epicenter of the virus, but their drastic decrease in cases is a step forward to eradicate polio. This would make polio only the second human infectious disease after smallpox to be eradicated.

Read more at GlobalPost: Polio outbreak hits China

"If all the data comes in clear over the next few weeks, then India, for the first time, will show up as an unshaded area on WHO polio maps," said Sona Bari of the World Health Organizations' (WHO) Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Reuters reported. "This is a great start to the year for India."

India had promised the world to eradicate itself of polio by 2000. If pending samples test negative for the virus in a few weeks, India will be officially regarded as free from polio for the first time in its history, the BBC reported. If this happens, there will only be three polio-endemic countries left: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Read more at GlobalPost: Africa's battle to eradicate polio goes door to door

The news will also help India as it tries to become one of the world’s emerging powers. Now the country can shed the link to a disease associated with poverty and chaos, which most of the world moved past centuries ago, the Associated Press reported. India’s government spent about $2.4 billion on the program to fight polio.

"This is a game changer in a huge way," said Bruce Aylward, head of the World Health Organization's global polio campaign, the AP reported.

Read more at GlobalPost: More parents choose not to vaccinate in some states

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